John Gould, Pl. 42A Bearded Mountaineer, Family of Hummingbirds, 1849–87, hand-colored lithograph
$1,500 this week only (list price $2,200). Offer expires 9-11-2017
4 September, 2017 by
John Gould, Pl. 42A Bearded Mountaineer, Family of Hummingbirds, 1849–87, hand-colored lithograph
Laura Oppenheimer


John Gould, Pl. 42A Bearded Mountaineer, Family of Hummingbirds, 1849–87, hand-colored lithograph

Enjoy special pricing on Appendix Pl. 42A, Bearded MountaineerOreonympha nobilisGould.(title on plate), a superb hand-colored lithograph from John Gould’s Family of Hummingbirds Two mature male hummingbirds and a female are depicted in the plate. The male hummingbird in the foreground is pursuing a small insect that alighted on a blossom of Chuquiraga insignisa shrub native to the Andes sent to Gould by the Scottish-Equadoran naturalist and botanist William Jameson.

Gould first described this species in 1869 at the Proceedings of the Zoological Society in London. The specimens depicted were procured in Peru at an elevation of 11,500 feet. In the text entry, Gould is exultant about the beauty of the Bearded Mountaineer. 

Nobody who has examined a specimen of this Humming-bird has hesitated to designate it as one of the most striking of the whole family; and as for myself, I look upon it as one of the finest species of Humming-bird that I ever described. Its large size and the great development of the feathers of its crown and beard render it a remarkable bird to look at; and the admirable way in which the original skins were prepared justify the large price of twenty pounds which I had to pay for my first specimen.

After recording the capture of the species, I at once requested Mr. Whitely to write to his son in Peru urging him to endeavor to procure the female, and also to send some notes on the species itself. The result was that the hen bird was soon afterward forwarded by Mr Henry Whitely, together with a note on the habits of the Bearded Mountaineer. "The first specimen," he says, "I obtained of this bird was at Tinta; but I have since found it in the province of Cuzco, and also on the highroad between Tinta and Cuzco. How strange it seems, after so many years have passed since the discovery of Peru, and so many distinguished people have traveled over the same road, that they have never made mention of this beautiful bird!" 

As an artist-naturalist, an intrinsic part of Gould’s mission was to not only to depict, but to scientifically identify, name, and describe the attributes of each hummingbird. In the preface to this monograph, Gould states, ”I have been unceasing in my endeavors to obtain every species which has been discovered by enterprising travelers of this country, of Germany, of France, and of America.”

Drawn in the size of life and lithographed by J. Gould and W. Hart, Walter imp. Fine hand watercoloring heightened with gum Arabic completes this exquisite lithograph. In perfect condition, 21.75 x 15.125 inches.

$1,500 this week only (list price $2,200). Offer expires 9-11-17.

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Considered Gould’s masterpiece in both breadth and beauty, Monograph of the Trochilidae or Family of Humming Birds comprises 418 plates. It was originally published in London in five volumes in 25 parts (1849–61), plus volume six, a five-part supplement, (1880–87). Depicted and lithographed on stone by artists John Gould, Henry Constantin Richter and William Mathew Hart, each plate exquisitely portrays these delicate, evocatively colored birds with the flowers indigenous to their area. Strong botanical elements add a dimension not found in other bird folios. A Family of Humming Birds also displays a tour de force of the hand-colored lithograph as a medium. Gold leaf, transparent oil colors, watercolors, lacquers and gum Arabic are combined to capture the iridescent quality of these most colorful of birds.  

To create Family of Humming Birds, Gould spent over two decades studying hummingbird specimens, previous works on the subject, and also gleaned information about their habits and range from leading naturalists in Europe, as well as in correspondence with naturalists working in the field, studying the flora and fauna throughout the Americas, who procured both hummingbird and native botanical specimens for this work. The preparatory drawings for the birds in the folio were made entirely from specimens. Some of the botanicals were taken from living plants grown in Great Britain, and others from procured specimens. Gould did not see a living hummingbird until he traveled to North America in 1857.  

John Gould (1804–1881) was a prolific publisher of ornithological subjects. In 19th-century Europe, his name was as well known as Audubon’s was in North America. Unlike Audubon, whose life’s work focused on one region, Gould traveled widely and employed other artists to help create his lavish, hand-colored lithographic folios. John Gould’s love of natural history was fostered in the gardens of King George III where his father was chief gardener at Windsor Castle. Although trained as a gardener, Gould’s interests quickly evolved, and at the age of 20, he was appointed taxidermist to the Zoological Society of London. After three years, he progressed to the position of curator of birds and chief taxidermist. In 1830, newly married, Gould and his artist wife, Elizabeth Gould (née Coxen, 1804 – 1841), began their publishing career. During a career spanning over half a century, John Gould oversaw the publication of more than a dozen folios on birds of the world.

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John Gould, Pl. 42A Bearded Mountaineer, Family of Hummingbirds, 1849–87, hand-colored lithograph
Laura Oppenheimer 4 September, 2017
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